PART the SECOND.
In which, the passage of St. John’s Epistle, There are three in heaven, &c. is prov’d to be genuine from the Greek Copies, and the use of the Greek Church.
That the two ancient Latin Versions, the Italick and the Vulgate of St. Jerom, are a proof that the disputed passage was in the Greek Copies.
THE Italick Version being the most ancient of all those of the New Testament, it can have been made only from the Greek: ’tis a fact: of which no person has ever doubted, and which Mr. Simon speaking of this Version in his Critical History has own’d. Yet this is not to say, that this Version, how ancient soever it may have been, had not its faults; there is none exempt, and that is a good one which has the fewest. But these faults, which most frequently proceed either from a certain weariness the mind contracts in a long and difficult work; or from a want of a thorough acquaintance with the full meaning of certain words in the original language, and sometimes even with the words of the language into which the translation is made, that are most proper to the subject; these faults, I say, tho’ they were in the Italick Version, were not carried so far as to cut off a Text which was in the Greek, nor to insert one which was not there. This would have been a most audacious crime, and which those pious translators, who in those first ages made a Version design’d for the instruction of the Church, could not have been guilty of.
The Text of the 7th verse of the 5th Chapter of the first Epistle of St. John was inserted in that Version; it was read there from the first ages; Tertullian, St. Cyprian, Vigilius, St. Fulgentius, and the others who have quoted it from this Version, understood the Greek; the last especially was skill’d in it, as we read in his Life, prefix’d before his Work: what room is there left after all this to doubt whether this Text was in the Greek? To doubt of it with any sort of grounds, they must be able to deny that this Version was made from the Greek; and who will deny it? or they must be able to prove, that it was so unfaithful as to have inserted for Texts of Scripture whole passages, which never were there, and which no body had read there; but how can they prove so odious an imputation, and which none of the Christians and Doctors of the remote ages has ever charged upon a Version so venerable? Or lastly, they must be able to advance that none of those who have taken the passage of St. John from this Version was capable of comparing it with the Greek, or that if they were capable, they had neither the zeal, nor the care to do it: but for a man to ascribe such sentiments to ’em, would be to expose himself to the derision of all the world. Nothing then would remain but absolutely to deny, that the Text we speak of was in the ltalick Version; but can they deny this after the proofs I have given of it? Tho’ there should be now extant in our days one or more ancient Manuscripts of that Version, and the passage of St. John be read in ’em, could they see it there better than those famous Authors did, who have copied it from thence? And would the report of the Learned among the moderns, who should declare this passage to be in those ancient Copies, deserve more credit with us, than the testimonies which have been by the Tertullians, the Cyprians, the Vigilius’s, the Fulgentius’s, and the three or four hundred African Bishops? Since then none of these things I have mention’d can be denied, they can’t but own, that this first proposition, which is inseparably connected with all the rest, namely, that the Text of St.John was in the Greeks is by this very means put beyond all contradiction.
I say the same thing with regard to St. Jerom’s Version, and the proof of it is more easily to be given. We have no need to suppose that St. Jerom was well-skill’d in the Greek Tongue, no person ever disputed it; no more have we need to suppose that in revising the Italick Version of the New Testament, he not only chose the most correct and most exact Manuscripts, but that he had also the the Greek Copies in his hand, in order to regulate his corrections by those Copies: He has himself declar’d that he follow’d this method; Novum Testatnentum, says he, Grœcæ fidei reddidi. “I have corrected the Version of the New Testament exactly after the Greek Copies.” Tho’ he had not said it, ’tis seen enough from the abundance of remarks he has made in his Commentaries. He had found in the Version, which he revised in order to make it more correct, the passage of the Epistle of St. John, and if in comparing the Version of that Epistle with the Greeks he had seen that it differ’d from the Greek in what regards this Text, is it conceivable that he would have left it there, and that industrious, as he was, to make alterations in many places, which may seem slight, he would have let pass in his Version so manifest a depravation of the original Text of that Epistle? The absurdity is palpable; he saw then this passage in the Greek, as he found it in the Latin.
The error which opposes it self to the truth of this Text necessarily yields to the force of this reason, unless it extricates it self by the help of another error, boldly and confidently asserted; and this is to deny that St. Jerom has inserted this passage in his Version. But how can they maintain this after the testimonies which I have brought to the contrary? The Romish Censors say in their Preface to Clement the Eighth’s Bible, as reported by Mr. Simon, that since nine hundred years all the Authors who have flourished in the Church, have only made use of St. Jerom’s Version; ’tis then from them, and the quotations of that Version which are found in their Books, that we may be informed with most certainty of what was read in that Version; and the certainty which will arise with relation to any particular passage, will be far greater, and beyond all doubt, if this passage is found quoted by several of these famous Doctors. We have here all this, as I have shewn in the ninth Chapter of the first Part; and these Authors are expressly of the same age the Romish Censors speak of. These Authors are some of above eight hundred years, and others above nine hundred and near a thousand. This fact being thus prov’d, and this last refuge taken away from those, who declaim against the genuineness of this passage, they will be forc’d to own that St. Jerom must have found it in the Greek, because for upwards of nine hundred years the most celebrated Writers have shewn us, that they read it in St. Jerom’s Bible.
I had briefly touch’d upon this reasoning drawn from the ancient Latin Versions in my first Dissertation, to shew that the Text of the witnesses in heaven, which was always read in these Versions, must necessarily have been found in the Greek. The shortness I us’d in my explication shou’d not have hinder’d Mr. Emlyn from taking notice of it and answering it; but he has thought good not to meddle with it. As I have now been as large upon this proof, as it deserves, its force will be better perceiv’d; and I question whether any answer can be given to it, that will satisfy a person, who seeks after truth and solidity.